ICAO calls for drone airspace management solutions


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The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has opened a new request for information (RFI) to help establish a framework for integrating unmanned aircraft into national airspace.

Results from the RFI will be presented at DRONE Enable/2, the ICAO’s unmanned aircraft symposium in Chengdu, China on 13 September.

This latest request follows an earlier RFI issued in April 2017, which garnered 76 responses from states, industry and academia. These responses served as the basis for the first Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management framework draft.

The first draft was reviewed at the first DRONE Enable conference in September last year. However, “critical gaps” in the UTM framework were identified, prompting the ICAO to launch a second request.

The mission statement of the new framework is to: “Ensure safe integration, without negatively impacting manned aviation and the safety of persons and property on the ground, taking into account security and equal accessibility for all airspace users.”

The deadline for the submission is 30 April. More details about submitting a response can be found here.

Regulation required

Whilst a lot of companies are considering incorporating drones into their operations, or even developing their own unmanned aircraft, the regulatory landscape around drones is a wild west.

Three of the biggest civil-helicopter manufacturers are investing in unmanned aircraft, and companies like Airbus are aiming to have them flying by 2020. The market is growing, but the regulation is not there to support the growth.

At Heli-Expo 2018, a group of experts in unmanned aircraft met to discuss the lack of regulation. The takeaway from the session was that the potential missions that drones could operate on was infinite, but that enforceable regulations need to be established quickly to support this. The ICAO’s effort look to be a positive step towards creating this requirement.